Save Cambridge’s Art Deco cinema!

…by persuading the developers to convert it into a shared town/gown community space – and minimising the carbon emissions of the redevelopment/renovation which are generally much higher with comprehensive redevelopment.

Many of you will be familiar with the old Art Deco Hobson Street Cinema in the town centre. I wrote about the initial consultation here back in April 2021. These proposals have been a long time coming. You can read through my history (and watch the videos) of the various campaigns and questions asked of councillors over the past decade to get this lovely building back into community use.


Click on the drawings at and look at option 2 – which is also the third column from the left in the options appraisal here.

21 Hobson Street is the Art Deco Cinema Building. This is the building we want to save, and turn into community use.


Go to and take their survey.

Alternatively, respond via:

Above – the proposals for Option 2 – retain the Art Deco Cinema Space for a community venue

Or you could go for an environmentally less friendly, potentially local plan-breaching comprehensive redevelopment model

Above – proposals for identikit, could-be-built anywhere design to replace the Hobson Street Cinema – which would also be the most profitable for the developer given the amount of floorspace they could make available. Note the token piece of community space this option includes.

And if we have more time to explore?

Compare the proposals to the Cambridge Local Plan 2018 here – which all new developments must comply with.

Have a look at Page 16 – the strategic objectives of the local plan.

Above – Strategic objective 1 is on environmental sustainability and the climate emergency. How will this redevelopment or renovation secure radical reductions in carbon emissions? Comprehensive redevelopment is far less likely to do that. There are a host of reports that sustain this viewpoint, saying that the construction industry needs to focus on renovation and not knocking down and rebuilding.

Above – the view from Historic England which you can read in detail here. See also their 2019 report here. I’m tempted to get in touch with them early on (or ask my local councillors not on the planning committee to do so on my behalf – you can do the same via to urge them to uphold the principle that this building must not be demolished in order to comply with their statement and report. Their statement is also backed up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in their report here.

Beyond the climate emergency:

Number 9: “assist the creation and maintenance of inclusive, environmentally sustainable communities;”

Number 12: “promote social cohesion and sustainability and a high quality of life
by maintaining and enhancing provision for open space, sports and recreation, community and leisure facilities, including arts and cultural venues that serve Cambridge and the sub-region;

Historic core appraisal of Hobson Street in 2016

Published by Cambridge City Council, you can read it here, as it identifies the old cinema as a Building of Local Interest.

What can community groups and campaign groups do in the meantime?

This is where the city council could organise/host a meeting of representatives from interested groups & organisations who would be able to contribute to a fully functioning community facility. Perhaps under the [civic] Mayor of Cambridge’s oversight as there is a long history of previous Mayors of Cambridge (sometimes with the support of the Vice Chancellor) using their collective influence to bring the great and the good together to solve difficult social issues.

This is also a huge opportunity for Cambridge’s student societies to make their presence known for the right reasons – not least because such a building could also potentially provide a permanent venue for the Cambridge University Students Union – whose address and premises is hardly ideal, tucked away behind the Pitt building. Could this be a venue that they could use and manage on behalf of the whole city? Could students persuade their colleges to dip into their funds to support the costs of renovation and rent?

Another institution that could benefit from a higher profile public presence is the University of the Third Age in Cambridge on Bridge Street – tucked away in premises not easily accessible to their demographic. This building would provide a bus stop on the doorstep (literally) for people going to the building from South Cambridge, and also leaving the building to go home in north or east Cambridge. The building space should be big enough to accommodate both institutions for meetings, classes, workshops and medium-sized gatherings, while enabling other institutions to co-locate and create a vibrant town-gown hub.

But we must get organised and present a united offer.

Previous proposals fell through because key institutions such as the police and local colleges were not engaged early on. This time it could be very different and for the better. Otherwise we risk losing the space to offices. While there is clearly an economic demand for office space, the proposals in Option 2 allow for enough office space on the other side of the development without dominating the entire building space. Therefore if done right, Option 2 could achieve the right balance between retail, office space, and community space.

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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